Review: Not the same old Hunter S. Thompson story | AspenTimes.com

Review: Not the same old Hunter S. Thompson story

Rick CarrollAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado

During the months and years after Hunter S. Thompson killed himself, a cottage industry of sorts was spawned.For a while, it seemed a book came out every month about the exploits of Thompson, the man responsible for gonzo journalism. Feeling a sense of information-overload about the maverick writer, I backed away from reading much of the new material.It’s been more than five years since Thompson’s death on Feb. 20, 2005. No longer feeling overrun by the Thompson love train, I’m now ready to tackle a few books I initially ignored. I recently read “Dear Dr. Thompson,” by Boulder author Matthew L. Moseley, and I found myself glad that Moseley didn’t delve into all of Thompson’s drug and alcohol-fueled binges and tirades – a well-chronicled aspect of his life that didn’t need rehashing. Instead, Moseley brings the reader behind the scenes of Thompson’s final gonzo campaign – the effort to free Lisl Auman from prison. Auman had been sentenced to a lifetime behind bars, without parole, for a felony murder conviction. The problem was, she was in custody at the time skinhead Matthaeus Jaehnig shot and killed Denver Police Officer Bruce Vanderjadt.When Thompson caught word of Auman’s plight, he did what he typically did when he sensed an injustice: He rallied the troops, and fired away.In the end, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the felony murder verdict, based on a technicality involving jury instructions. Auman walked away.It’s clear Moseley did extensive research for “Dear Dr. Thompson,” and faced numerous challenges along the way, chiefly in gathering documents from the Denver District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Auman.Moseley makes a point to say this book is not about Thompson or Auman. In a sense, he’s right. It’s about the power of a grassroots movement against a stubborn prosecution that was bent on Auman spending her life in jail, even though she had little, if any, role in the officer’s murder. Sadly, the book demonstrates that, had Thompson & Co. not come to Auman’s rescue, she’d probably still be behind bars. The book is also about Thompson’s uncanny ability to fire up highly influential people in a bid to free Auman, whose struggle with justice lasted nearly eight years in the pen. Hunter S. Thompson was many things to many people. He was a needle in the eye of many politicians and elected officials, and an inspirational figure for many a jaded American. He was both a brilliant and funny American journalist and satirist, and a known drug abuser. For Auman, however, he was a white knight. Moseley’s “Dear Dr. Thompson” is a satisfying read, even if you know the outcome. That’s a testament to Moseley’s tenacious research and an ability to freshly deliver a story that crosses many boundaries. Sure, there are Thompson fans who will pick this book up solely because of him. But regardless of your feelings about Thompson, Moseley’s book reveals the dark side of the American justice system, and a campaign that successfully fought it.rcarroll@aspentimes.com